IRS Could Use A Little Remider

16 06 2006

The IRS wants to crack down on religious leaders who over-step boundries of the law. Fine. Just make sure they actually over-step the law and not simply “offend” somebody because their candidate lost.

Via The Rapid City Journal:

The line between religion and politics might become more blurry in South Dakota if a challenge to a law banning nearly all abortions makes it to the November ballot.

The Internal Revenue Service is warning religious leaders that stepping over that line this election year could jeopardize a church’s tax-exempt status. The agency promises stricter enforcement of rules against religious groups endorsing or intervening in election campaigns.

But what qualifies as illegal politicking under IRS rules is not clear, and some Sioux Falls-area church officials maintain that the restrictions apply to individual candidates and not to issues such as abortion. Some religious leaders say they probably will encourage their congregations to vote to uphold the abortion ban.

These leaders are correct. Churches are not allowed to endorse any candidate. But they are allowed to encourage voting, hold voting registration drives, educate members on candidate’s positions, and even speak for or against various issues. This essentially allows members to decide which candidate would for or against the issues that concern Christians.

“While the vast majority of charities and churches do not engage in politicking, an increasing number did take part in prohibited activities in the 2004 election cycle,” IRS Commissioner Mark Everson said in a news release. “The rule against political-campaign intervention by charities and churches is long established. We are stepping up our efforts to enforce it.

“The IRS is most concerned about support of – or opposition to – a candidate and does not prohibit discussion of issues. At the same time, it warns that nonprofit organizations, including churches, “must avoid any issue advocacy that functions as political-campaign intervention.

“The increased involvement by some religious leaders in the past election campaign left some uneasy. Nationally, conservative religious groups were credited with helping President Bush’s campaign by telling voters that he shared their Christian values.

“… must avoid any issue advocacy that functions as political-campaign intervention.” This sentence seems to be a bit too objective to me and opens up too many possibilities for a paid-off, liberal judge to create his own law instead of interpreting the Constitution.

At my own church, Westmore Church of God, I organized a voting drive and distributed a candidate position brochure prior to the 2004 Presidential election. My goal was only to increase the number of voting Christians. Hopefully the IRS will not over-step their own boundries.

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